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By Cheryl Petersen
Successful prayer is the faith that all things positive and good are possible to God. Nurtured by selfless love, faith expands into spiritual understanding and reveals remarkable experiences. Whatever has been successfully accomplished in health, religion, and science can be traced to prayer, awareness, and pro-action. Unspoken thoughts are prayers. Desires are prayers. Sometimes these thoughts and desires are undeveloped or corrupt, but God can be trusted to influence and clarify the prayers. We may pray for more righteousness, but is it a desire to be right with God, or to be right in the eyes of human beings? Motives will be exposed. The prayers for a partner, for money, or for control, show rather myopic motives, even ulterior motives. Through the Science of Mind-healing, the complexity of prayer is broken down and resolved. Prayer won’t change God, because God is unchanging wisdom and Life, but prayer can adapt us to the Science of wisdom and Life. The premise of prayer must include the fact that God already knows what you need. We are never telling God something new. Asking God for something, no matter how lofty we sound, doesn’t guarantee satisfaction. Humility is necessary. Don’t acquire the habit of pleading with God, as though God is a human being with a brain that can be triggered into action. It is also a mistake to think prayer coaxes the Divine Being into reality. The universe of Truth is alive and well—gracefully penetrating and encompassing consciousness now. Spiritual being is intact and scientific prayer brings us into sync with it. God is divine Mind, intelligence. To spend time trying to give information to God is misleading. Heartfelt silent prayers are adequate
to bring us closer to the source of all existence and blessedness. God comprehends all that is complete and perfect and we were made in the image and likeness of God. Wordy prayers have not proven reliable. Long-winded prayers take detours into unrealistic terrain and the human ego starts to take over. The wisdom of divine Mind is immutable, whereas the wisdom of human beings is mutable, therefore incapable of telling God what to do. God is “the same yesterday, and today, and forever,” (Heb. 13:8) God’s work is done. We reflect the doing. Prayer comes with work. Not busy-work, but logical, timely, and efficient work. We can take advantage of God’s rules and receive the experience and understanding that empower us to work out our own salvation with God. As we reflect the divine Being—the “altogether lovely” (Song of Solomon 5:16)—we are conscious of the image and likeness of God. This rule of reflection is no small task but is the work of eternity and demands unequivocal commitment of thought, energy, and desire. God is so infinite and complete that we will constantly need to increase in spiritual understanding. Commitment to a Godlike prayer must be kept modest and open to new ideas, otherwise, an overzealous loyalty to what is already known will result in treachery. Fanatical devotion will claim to know an omnipresent good God, but yet be found telling God, and everyone else, how to think and act. Dismiss the barren holier-than-thou attitudes that often taint a prayer. We can refine gratitude. Being grateful is important, however, being grateful for manifestations of material prosperity and health is seriously different from being grateful for Life, Truth, and Love. It’s hypocritical to thank God only for material things or human ideologies, while forgetting to be grateful for honesty, humility, and hard-work. The rule of spiritual gratitude is that you will live the honesty, humility, and hard-work, not just talk about them. Effective prayer is buoyed by an intense desire for increased grace. The desire must be combined with a genuine effort to express courage, forbearance, love, and good deeds. It is this grace that is recorded in the Bible, and which the Master, Christ Jesus, exemplified. Silent prayer, spiritual alertness, and sincere obedience participate in the grace of Love. We are worthy of Love. We can be patient with ourselves and with others, because in this chaotic world most of us are neophytes at assimilating the divine character. Not only is it difficult to understand a God we can’t physically control, but we’ve also been hardwired to materialize our prayers by saying them out loud or repeating them ad nauseam. Audible prayers may even affect our worship of God, making it a form of entertainment rather than a means of increasing our spiritual knowledge.
Mistakes are made every day. Quite often we are sorry, especially for the mistakes that hurt other people and harm the living environment. The remorse leads us to self-help books, support groups, and exercises, in the effort to reform. Then comes the hard part, when we have to face and admit the hurtful, fearful, stupid thoughts and behaviors— sometimes called sins—and figure out how not to repeat them. We have to figure out how to reform. Reformation is confusing because the religious culture has indorsed the nonsense that prayer can be used to confess our sins and thereby make us free. But, mere confession carries no lasting weight. Then there is the secular society demanding the law of justice. “Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.” (Matthew 5:26) But, if we pay a fee, are we good-to-go, are we reformed? Scenarios of confessions and punishments and rewards can mislead our prayers and make reformation problematic. Divine Science reveals that off in its own little world are untrustworthy, asinine, greedy thoughts duly interconnected to their own suffering and self-destruction. God is not influenced by this little world created in the human mind. Reformative prayers can stand on the fact that we aren’t changing a sinner into a saint, but that sin is destroyed while saintliness is admitted. In divine Science, reform isn’t a method of morphing from bad to good, but is a challenge to shine your light, the light of goodness you always had. If a person feels depressed, the depression isn’t re-formed into empathy, but the person wakes up to empathy, compassion, love, and principled behavior. Darkness is not turned into light. Light shines and the darkness is naturally displaced. This rule is also effective when praying for physical healing. Realize that a sick body isn’t made better, but sickness is destroyed as health is admitted. We read in I John, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” (I John 3:8) Don’t be fooled by the whole sin thing. We weren’t born sinners. We do, however, commonly believe we were born human beings, vulnerable to what has been dubbed sin.
When we are not in tune with our spiritual beingness, we wander off into dumb-dumb land. Oddly, after a mistake or sin has been committed, human beings may overlook them, but unless the sin is destroyed, it will continue to cause suffering. It is vain to believe sloppy or unfinished work will be excused. Jesus was recorded to have adamantly exposed sin before destroying it even saying to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Matt. 16:23) In the field of divine Science, a strong mental stand on the side of God, Love, is necessary in prayer. A strong stand doesn’t necessarily mean a loud hyped-up prayer. Audible prayers can be impressive, but we aren’t here to impress, or be impressed. We express, God, Love. Once we understand what God is all about, we can detect and dismiss that which is not like God, Spirit. Christ Jesus said, “Every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Luke 3:9) Sickness, disease, and death are not good fruits therefore Christ Jesus taught us how to destroy the thoughts supporting sickness and death—through honest and informed prayer. The prayer can’t be bought with payments or used as a cover-up. The prayer can’t be muddling around in superstition, idolatry, creeds, or ignorance. The prayer can’t be pretentious. The prayer must fit the times and needs. Sound knowledge is part and parcel to effective prayers. After testifying that people were zealous for God, Paul though told the Romans, “Their zeal is not based on knowledge.” A twisted prayer comes from the human mind that is so tightly wrapped up in defending outgrown knowledge that it can’t breathe an ounce of progressive knowledge. Their actions do not meet the needs of the people today and their arguments have no credibility. Prayer becomes dangerous when it’s used to gratify the senses and emotions. The regurgitation of heady words is barren. Be very sharp when praying, or being prayed for, because you do not want to get entangled with the deceptive prayer, disguised under good-intentions. We read in Matthew, “Woe to you, teachers of the law…you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.” Matt. 23:27) Fortunately, God is not influenced by the self-satisfied or fervent sentiments of a showy numbing prayer. We can feel the aspiration, humility, gratitude, and love which our words express, and this God accepts. We can get our act together and help our self. We can welcome new knowledge and apply it in our prayers. We don’t need to be afraid of the deceptive prayer and we certainly don’t need to waste a lot of time confessing our backward thinking. God knows where we screwed up. We read in Matthew, “For there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.” (Matt. 10:26) We can examine ourselves and learn our intent and our attitude. If we fail at the examination, usually our friends, or a child, can detect the self-sabotaging attitude.
Honesty encourages the friend to tell you what needs improvement and you will improve. But, if the attitudes and information are slogged in stubbornness, the exchange turns into a melee of unwarranted criticism, doing no one any good. In divine Science, you can test your prayer. Ask: Do I pray a lovely prayer and yet return to my old habits? Do I give evidence of what I am praying for? Do I show any sign of loving my enemies? It is ridiculous to congratulate yourself for repeating the same old pattern of loving those who love you, or for suffering because of your own lack of doing what is promising to humanity. We’ve been told, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all you mind.” (Matt. 22:37, Mark 12:30, Luke 10:27, Duet. 6:5) You may hear that prayer involves taking up the cross, well, don’t mistake this for meaning suffering is God’s will. God’s will is not suffering. If you are willing to follow Christ Jesus example, you will be expected to sacrifice, but it is a sacrifice of temporal things including hate, sickness, creeds and rituals—conditions we really can live without. Prayer is the constant desire to do right, but that right will shift in the eyes of human beings, because doing right is doing the will of God. As you and the world grow in the spiritual understanding of prayer, God will sustain us while we give up the temporal vain things and learn to trust the eternal. The world’s people have many forms of prayer. Don’t knock them. Experience teaches us that there is room for improvement in all forms of prayer. We do not always receive what we ask for because we have yet fully to understand the source and means of all goodness and blessedness. Immature prayers is nothing new we read in James, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (James 4:3) The gratifications of the tactile senses and the bombardment of information require us to hone our spiritual sense and knowledge. We must become skillful in divine Science. We must not be afraid to experiment and modify our approach as we go along. We may start out begging God for help, but we can expect this pleading to yield to an epiphany that reveals our spiritual identity safe with Truth, Life, and Love. We may bargain with God only eventually to discover
the deal has already been made—God gave only goodness. We may get the frying-panon-the-head feeling and be quickened to clean up our act and start becoming responsible and respectful. Truth bestows no excuses for backwardness, but wipes out all sin and sickness. “The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.” (James 5:15) How do we understand this healing prayer? It helps to first understand what a healing prayer is not. It is not a litany of petitions. It is not a series of affirmations as if the more you say it the more likely it will become true. It is not the human mind convincing itself of some grandiose idealism. It is not a communication with a humanlike God. It is not blind faith. In divine Science, human understanding is put aside for spiritual understanding. Humble prayers, offered by a faith in truth, life, and love, are deep and conscientious acknowledgments of Truth, and a knowing that we are the image of Spirit and in full unity with Life and Love. The healing prayer is unique to, and separate from, a faith in the human mind, in time, or in some guru or clergy who can spill out a prayer sweet as honey, but is sure to get your money. We are reminded, “When you pray, don’t be like the play-actors.” (Matt 6:7, JB Phillips) Although a meticulous procedure, it is scientific to divide the inactive prayer from the active prayer. It’s fairly easy to discard the repetitious prayers that basically fall on deaf ears and get us nowhere. But there are other ineffective prayers. Inert prayers can oftentimes appear dynamic because they have the wherewithal to change one belief into another belief. Similar to the belief that marriage will bring happiness and then changing to the belief that divorce will bring happiness. Inactive prayers also stem from the notion that we are saving someone else when actually we are doing their work for them, slighting both them and our self. Whether we are praying for our self or for others, the radical foundation from which to proceed is spiritual understanding—an understanding of divine Spirit. It is most beneficial to enter into spiritual consciousness, not riveted on the human mind or body. From the Bible, “We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (II Cor. 5:8) Are we off on an adventure with the body, or at home with divine Soul? The belief and dream of temporal human living has nothing to do with Life divine— revealing spiritual understanding and consciousness. In Science, we’ve been given dominion to express all the excellent and beautiful and useful elements created by God and established in spiritual being. You can become conscious right now of the wellbeing and intelligence that is purely divine. You’ve been given authority—not to manage sin, sickness, or other people—but to experience the consciousness of intelligence, Truth and
Love. Referring to Christ Jesus, we read in the Bible, “He taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.” (Matt. 7:29) Christ Jesus also apparently gave this counsel: “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matt. 6:6) The plan offers broad implications besides the obvious need to be honest and humble. We are able to communicate directly with God without a middleperson. We can turn off, or at least not give our full attention to the loud physical noises around us; including everything from the television to the muscles. We can enter into the heart of a healing prayer and deny sin and affirm wisdom, Truth, and Love. We can trust the unseen God, Father-Mother of all to guide us to responsible healing. This suggestion doesn’t mean we stay in the closet. Prayer is action. Only as we ascend above all habituated feelings and sin can we reach the heaven-born aspiration. What is commonly referred to as the Lord’s Prayer indicates the spiritual consciousness which instantaneously heals the sick. Some Bible versions include an extra line at the end of the Lord’s Prayer. Bible scholars think that a later copyist may have added it; however, it does not affect the meaning of the prayer itself and has been included here in what can be understood as the spiritual sense of the Lord’s Prayer: Our Father in heaven, Our Father-Mother God, all-harmonious, Hallowed be Your name, One sacred nature, Your kingdom come, Your government is come; You are ever-present, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Enable us to know—as in heaven, so on earth—God is omnipotent, supreme. Give us this day our daily bread.
Give us grace for today; feed the starved intent. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And Love is reflected in love. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. And God does not lead us into temptation, but delivers us from sin, disease, and death. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.1 For God is infinite, all-power, all Life, Truth, Love, over all, and All. This is a modern and abridged version of the chapter, Prayer from the book, 21st Century Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, a revision and update of Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health.
Matt. 6:13 (NKJV)
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